David Maddox: Will the election change things?

There are doubts over the quality of current MPs fueled by the expenses scandal in 2008. Picture: PA
There are doubts over the quality of current MPs fueled by the expenses scandal in 2008. Picture: PA
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This week sees the end of five long years of the first fixed- term parliament in British history with the House rising on Thursday. But the question is what sort of House of Commons will be returned after the election on 7 May?

Nowhere is this more the case than in Scotland where the polls suggest a substantial number of Labour and Lib Dem MPs will be turfed out in favour of SNP ones. The rise of the SNP vote like that of Ukip in England and to a lesser extent the Greens is often put down to an “anti-politics” mood among the electorate and disillusionment with the established Westminster parties.

But will they provide anything much different other than the uncertainty of not one or even two parties holding a majority of seats?

One of the regular complaints is that MPs too often toe the party line and give evasive answers on issues. Yet this coalition government has seen more major rebellions than any since the Second World War and maybe before, whether it was the Lib Dems on tuition fees and English health reform, or the Tories on gay marriage, Europe, Lords reform and defence spending.

If there are 40 or more SNP MPs we now know that they will be subject to a new draconian set of rules which will stamp out individuality.

This includes a provision that they “accept that no member shall, within or outwith Parliament, publicly criticise a group decision, policy or another member of the group”.

This was the party which did not want the independent minded Margo McDonald in its Holyrood ranks.

And then there are the doubts over the quality of current MPs fueled by the expenses scandal in 2008 but continued by stings on senior figures like Sir Malcolm Rifkind or Danny Alexander, even though neither were breaking any rules or laws.

The SNP certainly offers some talented individuals like Alex Salmond’s former adviser Stephen Gethins in North East Fife. But there are also questionable ones like Mhairi Black up against Douglas Alexander in Paisley and Renfrewshire South who told a crowd she fantasised about “putting the nut” on a group of Labour councillors or Douglas Chapman in Dunfermline who reportedly played down the former SNP MSP Bill Walker’s domestic abuse by saying the “moral code was very different” at the time.

Another unanswered question is whether a large group of SNP MPs will be able to influence policy as much as having Scots like Danny Alexander in senior positions in government parties.

While it seems at the moment that this election will change things greatly it is hard to tell at the moment whether it will be for the better.

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